Nvidia GeForce NOW Ultimate Membership Review: Cloud Gaming at Its Best – How-To Geek

Nvidia GeForce NOW Ultimate Membership Review: Cloud Gaming at Its Best – How-To Geek

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NVIDIA’s new premium cloud gaming tier, GeForce NOW Ultimate, kicks performance up a notch, ditching its already-acclaimed RTX 3080 supercomputers for RTX 4080. With GeForce NOW Ultimate’s speedy frame rates, stunning graphics, and top-tier performance—the price feels like a steal.
NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW launched as a beta program in late 2015 and became publically available in early 2020. From there, NVIDIA launched its premium tier, GeForce NOW RTX 3080, for $20 per month in October 2021. Reborn as the new GeForce NOW Ultimate, a subscription boasts RTX 4080 SuperPODS—NVIDIA’s supercomputers with Ada Lovelace GPUs–and 1.75 times faster performance than RTX 3080. With more power, you’d expect a price increase, but NVIDIA is keeping it status quo at $20 per month.
A subscription gave me fully ray-traced graphics, AV1 encoding (which uses about 15% less bandwidth for online gaming than NVIDIA’s previous H.265 encoding method), and up to 240 frame rates per second (FPS).  In my week with GeForce NOW Ultimate, I played my way through hours of enjoyable games on the cloud and found NVIDIA’s newest upgrade almost too good to be true. However, while the Ultimate subscription does everything it claims, it only pays for itself if you game a lot and don’t mind shelling out extra money to play games you already own.
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The GeForce NOW Ultimate Membership: Connectivity and App
    Linking Your Gaming Accounts
How NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW Cloud Gaming Works
    The Only Cloud Gaming Service You’ll Need… Sans a Giant Free Library of Games
Performance: Mindblowing Speed and Brilliant Graphics
    Latency: Adaptive FPS and Performance Options Give You the Power
Graphics: You Won’t Believe You’re Streaming
    Ray Tracing (RTX)
    DLSS 3
Should You Subscribe to NVIDIA GeForce NOW Ultimate?

To use GeForce NOW cloud gaming, you’ll need the GeForce NOW app (available on most major operating systems and browsers (as detailed above). Before you sign up, make sure you have a compatible system by checking the system requirements page. It’s also important to note the GeForce NOW Ultimate’s 4080 performance availability will depend on your location since, at the time of writing, NVIDIA is in the process of upgrading its data centers with the RTX 4080 SuperPOD computers. Luckily, I was within range of NVIDIA’s Southwest U.S. servers, which have upgraded computers.
Downloading the app and creating an NVIDIA account is easy. It took a few minutes to get everything set up, including linking my gaming accounts (see below).
The app has a user-friendly layout that I found enjoyable to use. There’s a home page titled “Games,” where you’ll find your library of games, free-to-play games, and other game options available to buy via connected online stores (Steam and Ubisoft), which are organized in categories like “Indie Spotlight” or by developer/publisher.
If you click on the three lines menu in the top-left corner, you’ll also find a “Gallery” page, where all your screenshots and video captures you take with GeForce NOW will go—and a “Settings” page.

Before I could start playing games I owned on Steam and Ubisoft, I needed to connect my accounts to sync my game libraries. I went to the GeForce NOW app’s “Settings” page and located the “Connections” box in the top-right corner to get things configured. In less than 10 minutes, I had my Steam, Ubisoft Connect, and Epic Games accounts connected. All you do is allow sync permissions, log in, and you’re good to go.
While GeForce NOW fully syncs your Steam and Ubisoft Connect game libraries, you can’t sync your game library with Epic Games. But it’s worth connecting your Epic Games account if you play “Fortnite” since it gives you automatic sign-in for the popular online game.

Cloud gaming allows you to play games online without downloading the (often large) files. This saves you time waiting for a large download and also saves space on your PC. It also allows you to play AAA games on computers, laptops, tablets, and phones that don’t have the horsepower to handle such resource-heavy titles.
For someone with a bogged-down laptop that doesn’t run games well, NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW Ultimate made my jaw drop with its precision, speed, and low latency. The refresh rates also surprised me since my PC is notoriously slow these days (read: borderline dinosaur). There are things I could do to try to speed up my slow PC, but it still isn’t made for gaming, either way.
Here’s where NVIDIA’s GeForce Now Ultimate stands out as a cloud gaming service—it conglomerates games you already own and allows you to play them on the cloud. This isn’t something other cloud services don’t offer, though. Amazon Luna, for instance, does the same thing. Via Luna, you can play games you already own through Ubisoft Connect and access a small library of rotating free-to-play games. As a note, though, Luna recently slimmed down its game library in the last couple of months.
There are free-to-play games available through NVIDIA GeForce NOW, but these are games you can already play and stream for free via Steam, Ubisoft Connect, and Epic Games. Compared to the cloud service through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, for example, GeForce Now doesn’t have a rotating library of free-to-play games.
This doesn’t mean more free games won’t be added to its free section. As Steam and Ubisoft make compatible games free, those should appear in the app. New compatible games available for purchase are also added to the app every Thursday under the “GFN Thursday” category.
If you’re looking for a vast, rotating library of free games, GeForce NOW might not be the cloud service for you. For instance, on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, I can play “Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition” through Xbox Cloud Gaming—at no extra cost. If I beat the game before Xbox removes it, I’ve completed it for free, less the expense of my Game Pass Ultimate subscription, which is $15 a month. In the past, I’ve beaten two or three games on Game Pass in a month, which is more economical than paying for each title. “Mortal Shell” is also available on GeForce NOW Ultimate, but I’d have to buy it through Steam to play it, an additional expense on top of the $20 a month for the cloud service.
That said, you’re paying to connect to its network of supercomputers (aka those SuperPODS, which sounds so fancy)—and therein lies the value for your money. If GeForce NOW Ultimate can turn my Brontosaurus HP laptop into a pro gaming system, they can probably do so with any device with the minimum compatibility requirements. Compared to Xbox Cloud Gaming on my laptop, which is technically still in beta, GeForce NOW wins hands-down in stream quality, latency, and overall performance.

On my laptop, desktop, and Samsung S22 Ultra, GeForce NOW Ultimate allowed me to play detailed, intensive games without so much as a stutter.
During hours of gaming, I played a variety of games to test different elements of the service. My first day was a particularly gloomy one—heavy rain and wind were affecting my Wi-Fi connection, and it didn’t make for a pleasant experience. This was no issue on NVIDIA’s end—this was a local issue I experienced due to the weather and some spotty service. Although GeForce NOW allows you to use NVIDIA’s supercomputers, you still need a sturdy connection on your end to make it all run smoothly.
Despite that one blip in my gaming, the rest of the days were absolute gaming bliss—nary an issue, save for the occasional need to reload the GeForce NOW app when my library wasn’t showing up. A quick restart solved it.

Under “Settings,” there are “Streaming Quality” options to give you control of your gameplay. There’s “Balanced” mode—which offers you the best graphics and speed based on your connection—or “Competitive” mode—which provides the lowest possible latency during your stream. There’s also a “Data Saver” mode and a “Custom” mode, where you can choose your max bit rate, resolution, frame rates, and more.
When using Competitive mode, you can turn “Reflex” on in the “Details” drop-down menu, giving you the smoothest experience possible. Reflex does this by synchronizing the in-game FPS with the streaming FPS and rendering frames at the latest moment possible.
I used Competitive mode with Reflex enabled while playing games like “Fortnite,” “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege,” “Apex Legends,” and “Rocket League.”
With an Ethernet connection, I saw FPS rates of up to 240 while playing both “Fortnite” and “Apex Legends.” Even with a Wi-Fi connection, my stream was good, hitting up to 256FPS at one point, though the average hovered between 175 and 240 throughout gameplay. My measured latency was around 14 to 24ms—so NVIDIA’s claims of sub-40 in Competitive mode were entirely accurate for me.
Cloud gaming without good graphics isn’t worth your time, but NVIDIA is an industry leader with its full ray tracing and DLSS3. I only saw poor graphics during that rainy, bad Wi-Fi day. From thereon out, everything was as smooth as glass. And with up to 4K capabilities with a 4K gaming monitor, you won’t want to stop playing.
Ray Tracing (RTX), in simple terms, is a graphics rendering feature that simulates the physicality of light. So those ultra-realistic sunlight reflections on glass, light reflections on water, and neon lights casting a recognizable, haunting glow I saw while playing “Cyberpunk 2077” are all thanks to GeForce NOW’s full ray tracing. Of course, the lighting also applies to how shadows and contrast appear in-game. Without the ray tracing, the lighting appears less realistic and flatter. NVIDIA’s ray tracing also includes some necessary denoising to keep images sharp.
To test RTX, I played NVIDIA’s recommendation, “Cyberpunk.” On my laptop, I got the same—if not a better—experience with lighting and contrast as my Xbox One X console. From the shocking high sun of the desert to the overwhelming cityscape of Night City, “Cyberpunk” came to life with realistic lighting that kept my eyes glued to the screen in admiration.
RELATED: What Is Ray Tracing?
Also in the new Ultimate membership is NVIDIA’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), which is a feature that works on reconstructing images to create new frames, thus increasing your frame rates. DLSS 3 works in-game to keep your frame rates high, which is important for reducing latency and providing a high-quality gaming experience.
NVIDIA recommended “War Hammer 40,000: Dark Tide” to get a top-tier example of DLSS 3 in action. Again, I wasn’t disappointed.
In “Dark Tide,” frame rates matter—the second your screen glitches, you could be annihilated by the hordes of festering Chaos followers. Thankfully, playing as my character Genevieve, I helped my teammates destroy these terrifying beings, and any mission failure was attributable only to my panicked gameplay.
RELATED: What Is DLSS 3, and Can You Use It on Existing Hardware?
For $20 a month, access to NVIDIA’s RX 4080 SuperPODS is a steal for anyone who doesn’t have a professional gaming setup. Even if you do have a gaming laptop or PC, this cloud service could save you time and space as you stream instead of download. The gorgeous stream quality and high-speed performance are better than any other cloud gaming service I’ve tried on a laptop thus far.
However, if you don’t already have a big library of owned games on Steam, EA, or Ubisoft Connect, you may find yourself more inclined for a rotating free-to-play cloud service, such as the available options on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
If you want to start cloud gaming with the best, sign up for NVIDIA GeForce NOW Ultimate for $20 a month today.
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